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JUST PLAIN TALK: Wear a mask, save your job

Buz Livingston
Walton Sun

Wearing a mask in the middle of the worst pandemic in over a century should be an easy call. Just like in Monopoly, you get a “Take Off Your Mask” card if you are outside and alone. Changing your mind is not a sign of weakness. When the facts change or new information arises, it is essential to switch gears.

If you want to watch a college football game this fall, reruns excluded, start wearing a mask. If you don’t trust me, Alabama coach Nick Saban has public service announcements encouraging masks. Saban’s PSA didn’t go as far as Crimson Tide contests being canceled, but Major League Baseball will play less than one-third of a regular season, and even that appears tenuous.

The Republican governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, was blunt warning college football would be a “tall task” unless people, especially the young, put on a mask when they are in public. Unfortunately, Kemp prefers jawboning his constituents instead of compulsory mask requirements.

In William Bernstein’s stellar book “The Birth of Plenty,” he argues scientific rationalism is essential for economic bounty and growth. Bernstein opines humans would have made it to the moon centuries earlier if religious powers had not stifled scientific advancement during the Middle Ages. He could have been using hyperbole; I will verify later this month when I see him via Zoom. The rejection of basic science, whether it’s anti-masks or anti-vaccination, doesn’t portend well for American economic growth. A recent Goldman Sachs economic forecast showed a mandatory mask would add as much as five percent growth to Gross Domestic Product. Masks are a political statement, pro or con, but facts don’t care about your feelings. The job you save may be your own.

Four months ago, Covid-19 was a media hoax. Some people still believe, like Santa Claus, but Covid-19 is a severe threat to Americans’ health and financial well-being. We are not at the beginning of the end, but at the end of the beginning. Until there are effective therapeutic drugs and a vaccine, masks coupled with physical distancing and rigorous attention to hygiene, are our best options.

Buy and Hold Investors Hang Tough (For Now)

According to statistics from retirement plans administered by Vanguard Group and T. Rowe Price, 401K participants made few changes during the first half of 2020. Ninety-five percent of retirement plan participants at Vanguard didn’t make a single trade. Less than 1% moved entirely out of stocks. From late February through early May, only 12% of individual investors at Vanguard traded with twice as many buying stocks versus selling. At T. Rowe Price, over 97% of retirement plan participants sat tight with their investments.

These results thrill me, but how people react in a prolonged bear market could be different. Invest appropriately for your goals, time horizon, risk tolerance, and risk capacity.

You can’t always get what you want, but Buz Livingston, CFP, can help you figure out what you need. For specific advice, visit livingstonfinancial.net or drop by 2050 West County Highway 30A, M1 Suite 230.